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Woes continue to mount

April 24, 2011 | 12:40 pm No comments
By Shaun Schafer

Jeff Larentowicz flies into defense during Friday's clash with Seattle. (Photograph by Joel Baud/ColoradoSoccerNow.com)

After chasing the game for 87 minutes against Seattle Sounders FC, the Colorado Rapids face another uphill battle.

Colorado, which went a man down in the third minute on Friday, now faces the Chicago Fire with the Rapids riding a three-game losing streak and missing at least two starters.

Brian Mullan, who was ejected for a tackle that broke Steve Zakuani’s leg, will be sitting at least the Saturday game against Chicago, and is likely to face a fine from the MLS. Mullan’s one-game suspension is automatic for the red card. Additional suspension from the league is likely.

Also still missing is forward Conor Casey. Casey’s absence has been made more glaring by the team’s three-game slide. After scoring eight goals in the first three games — all wins — the Rapids have been shutout in three straight matches — all losses.

Hopeful Signs: Despite playing a man down, the Rapids gave the Sounders few chances. Fredy Montero made the most of that chance in the 19th minute, tucking a shot under goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

Other than that one break, neither side saw many opportunities. This lack of chances continued a streak for the Rapids. In posting consecutive 1-0 losses, Colorado has been fairly organized and effective on defense, but done little in attack.

On Friday night, the ejection left the Rapids playing a 4-4-1, with Caleb Folan up top. Folan saw little of the ball, but did do a good job of at least keeping a high line and not letting Seattle’s centerbacks get involved in the attack.

Nine days earlier, the Rapids forwards saw few opportunities against Real Salt Lake in a desultory result that came on a contested offsides goal in the 93rd minute from Fabian Espindola.

A stalwart defense was reassuring after the 3-0 thrashing at FC Dallas on April 8. However, the forwards need more than a hopeful long ball poked into the middle of the field to be effective.

Fire Below: Chicago played better on Saturday, but still struggled in the midfield in a 1-1 tie with the Houston Dynamo. Chicago is 1-3-2 on the season. The Rapids, after a perfect start, are now 3-3-0. The two meet at 7 p.m. Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City.

Back in Action: Friday’s match did mark the return of Pablo Mastroeni. A calf injury kept him out of action against Dallas and Salt Lake. The team struggled to find a midfield combination in his absence. But, playing with 10 men, the squad was hard pressed to do more than defend.

Who to Play: Mullan’s absence opens a spot in the midfield. This could be good news for Sanna Nyassi. Nyassi, who has played in five games and started one, would seem the likely choice to start in place of Mullan. Wells Thompson, who stirred up the field as a second half subsitute on Friday, would be the second choice.

Or, Gary Smith may go back to tinkering with the 4-5-1 that he tried the past summer. This could drop Omar Cummings to a wing spot with an additional central midfielder, perhaps Joseph Nane, joining Matroeni and Jeff Larentowicz.

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